Customer Service

Course Handbook V2.0

Dr. Wolfgang Messner
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Managing customer service operations effectively and efficiently provides a significant source of competitive advantage for organizations. This course emphasizes the philosophy, strategy, and style of management that service organizations can use to gain competitive advantage, including the utilization of technology and outsourced resp. offshored services.

 About the Course

The course on Customer Service Management emphasizes the philosophy, strategy, and style of management that service organizations can use to gain competitive advantage, including the utilization of technology and outsourced resp. offshored services. It is designed to provide skills and knowledge to enable you to identify, design, and implement operating improvements; it provides concepts, frameworks, tools, and techniques that enable to craft a service strategy just as well as to diagnose a situation on the ground, identify challenges and opportunities, and then establish a go-forward plan. It also provides entrepreneurially inclined students with the foundation to open their own services businesses. The approach to the topics has been designed to be rigorous and practical using content-driven lectures, examples, and case studies.

Course Objectives

The aims of this course are to help you:

  • To be able to design service processes and to use analytical tools to diagnose and assess service quality.
  • To align service culture with strategic choices and to devise strategies to deliver more value to clients.
  • To understand the role information technology plays in service delivery and for turning a service encounter into a sales  opportunity.
  • To use customer data and insight to start automated and meaningful customer dialogues.
  • To appreciate the chances and challenges that outsourcing and offshoring carries for the professional services firm.

Cases Discussed

Alamo Drafthouse, DHL, Hard Rock Café, Harrah’s Entertainment/Caesars, Legal industry,
McDonald’s, Ritu Kumar, Starbucks.

Further examples from Europe, USA, and India are provided during the lectures.


This is a graduate-level course and as such contains graduate-level work. This includes active participation in class discussions and activities; high-quality written work is expected. Much of a manager’s success depends on communication excellence and therefore effective communication will constitute a significant portion of a student’s grade. Written work should be clear, logical, grammatically correct, spell-checked, persuasive, supported by examples, and backed up by citations for any data, ideas or other content used. It should always represent your best effort. To do well on the writing assignments, you will need to incorporate and apply the course readings – and use the library and the Internet for further research.

Your final grade in this course will be based on the following weighting:

  • Individual paper 50%
  • Knowledge quizzes 40%
  • Classroom participation 10%

Common sense warning: Just as ethics and integrity are important in management practice, academic integrity is important in this course. Ignorance is not an excuse for violation!

Individual paper

This is an individual paper. You are expected to identify a company with a services component located
in India and explain its services strategy in a paper. For example:

  •  Royal Orchid Hotels, Intercontinental Hotels, Hilton Hotels etc. or a small and independently run hotel or restaurant that you are familiar with
  • Café Coffee Day, Starbucks, McDonalds
  • A cinema or multiplex
  • A professional services company like Infosys, Wipro, Capgemini, Accenture, Ernst & Young
  • A car dealership or repair shop
  • An online retailer like,,
  • A tourist attraction like Mysore Palace, Mysore Zoo
  • A hospital, an airport, a car rental company

These are ideas only; identify a company that you are interested in! Use the Internet, visit the company, read analyst reports about the company – do some research around it. You are now expected to write a case study about the service strategy of this company.

There is no set structure for this paper, but I expect it to have the following elements:

  • Heading. This should both create appetite for reading the paper as well as aptly summarizes its contents.
  • Executive Summary. This is, as the name suggests, a summary containing all the important aspects of the company and its services strategy, so that a busy manager can get a flavor of what your paper is about and decide whether or not to read it. It is also referred to as an abstract, but not to be confused with the introduction.
  • Introduction. This sets the scene for your paper. Why has the paper been written? Why has the company been selected?
  • Main part. Structure the main part of the text with some subheadings (look at the sample case studies, see below). Make your writing more accessible with using a few high-quality figures or tables.
  • References. List all the references used. Questions. See note below.
  • Author. Some three to five lines about YOU as the author of the paper
  • Solutions to the Questions. See note below.

The main part of the paper is strictly limited to 3,000 words (not including references, the questions, figures, and tables). A template will be made available during class.

At the end of the paper, suggest two questions (not more and not less) on your paper. Again, look at the two sample case studies. At least one of your two questions should make use of a quality framework discussed in the course (e.g. service winners, Porter’s Five/Six Forces, Strategic Service Vision framework, SERVQAL – the choice is yours!). Do not suggest a SWOT analysis (this is for undergraduate work only and, by the way, extremely difficult to get right).

Finally, provide short and crisp sample answers to the two questions. If you ask your readers to use Porter’s Five/Six Forces to assess the industry environment, show the result of the analysis.

A few more hints:

  • Please make sure your paper makes sense as a standalone reading.
  • Don’t use figures and tables for their own sake. A pretty and colorful chart says nothing; instead, for example, pick out interesting rations and show a graph how they have been behaving over time. Make sure you use the right kind of graphic for the job (for example, pie charts don’t work for time series). Flashy diagrams do not substitute for clear thinking. The best diagrams are simple and black-and-white, avoid using color!
  • The main part of the paper should not mention any frameworks; frameworks help you to write a good main part, but they should not be obvious. You can show me that you know how to use frameworks in the two questions.
  • Depending on your chosen company, you may even want to start work on your paper with the two questions – rather than the writing the main part first. You may want to use the information from the solutions to the questions as input for the main part. 
  • While your paper is to be submitted as individual work, nothing stops you to team up with your

fellow students. Maybe choose a company from a similar industry (e.g. Pizza Hut and McDonalds), analyze the industry environment together, work together, and help each other. You will be faster and have a better result! And then submit independently. If you are a bit unsure of what is expected, read the following two case studies distributed as part of your course pack:

  • The Alamo Drafthouse
  • United Commercial and El Banco

The deadline for your paper is:

Friday, 18th July, 03:00 p.m

Late submissions (even by 2 minutes) will be downgraded by 50%. Plan your work accordingly! Hand-in a hardcopy (black-and-white only!) to Ms. Deepa Jaganath, sign the submission sheet, and send a softcopy via email to me (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) with the following attachments in a single zip file:

  • Your paper as a pdf
  • Your paper as a Word document
  • Your figures and tables as a PowerPoint document

The naming convention for the zip file is:
The marking scheme for your paper will be as follows:

  • Research: 10% / Referencing: 10% You should base your paper on recent material from reputed newspapers, business magazines, journals, and books. You should cite a respectable range of at least 6 (the more the better, probably max. 15) separate references from at least 3 different sources. As a guideline, at least half of your references should not be older than 3 years. All sources have to be cited properly and referenced using APA 5th edition. I strongly recommend you to use the Word functionality for references!
  • Knowledge & understanding: 10% Show me that your understanding of customer service management is comprehensive in breadth and depth, current, and relevant. Show me that you can extrapolate and inter-relate theory and practice.
  •  Academic underpinning: 10% For a very good mark, I want to see clear evidence that you have deployed the full range of theory and frameworks to analyze the service strategy of your chosen company. But do not reproduce theory! Theory must be applied to the company and used to draw insightful conclusions based on factual evidence. If your analysis has little support from theory and frameworks, you will get lower marks. If you only repeat theory and frameworks (but don’t relate them to the company and its service strategy), you will get very low grades.
  • Adding value: 20% Ask yourself, as a reader, would you want to read and engage with this case study? Is it a thouhgt-leadership publication standard?
  • Presentation: 20% / Writing mechanism: 20% Writing mechanism: 20% Your are expected to submit work that follows a clear and logical structure, is written in correct English and easy for the reader to follow. Professional lay-out is important. Appropriate use of figures and tables will enhance your grade. Persistent poor spelling and other avoidable errors will be penalized. The expectation is that your paper can be “published in a book” as submitted by you. Avoid jargon! There are no extra marks for using terms such as “globalization,” “core competencies,” or “paradigm” just to show that you are attending business school. Write simply and concisely! Avoid the use of unnecessary technical terms – and if you really must use them, use them correctly! Avoid adjectives like “huge,” “massive,” or “disastrous.” Instead, use actual figures or percentages – it makes your paper more considered and credible. Of course, you will need to quote the source of your data.

Knowledge Quizzes

There will be at least 3 knowledge quizzes during the duration of the course. The quizzes will not be announced and are closed-book exams of about 15-20 minutes duration. The quizzes may include objective (true/false or multiple choice) questions and/or subjective (short answer and essay) questions. The quiz covers the content of the last few lectures and background reading. Only students present will get credit for the exercise; this will be determined by those who have signed the roll for the day. Typically, quizzes cannot be made up if you are absent on this day. The quiz with the lowest mark will be dropped and not taken into account for calculating your mark.

Classroom Participation

This course covers a significant amount of content and much of the learning comes from in-class exercises and discussion. Therefore, you are expected to attend all sessions, complete all assigned readings, and come prepared to participate. For some sessions, there will be a small case study to prepare for discussion or an activity to be completed. Attendance will be taken and participation will be evaluated at each class session. Excessive absences above 20 per cent of class contact hours will result in a lower grade. Please notify me (via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) prior to the start of class if you will not be in attendance. Classroom participation will be graded more on quality than on quantity, so contributions should be relevant, concise and aimed at moving the discussion forward and driving toward insight and understanding. Here are the behaviors that count:

Asking questions Customer Service Management

  • Answering questions
  • Making comments
  • Sharing relevant experiences

Here are the value-added behaviors – the ones that put your contributions over the top:

  • Responding to something another student says (including answering a question asked by a student)
  • Constructively disagreeing with something in the text or said in class by me or another student

And these are behaviors to avoid:

  • Not listening
  • Pretending to be listening while texting or cruising online
  • Speaking without being recognized
  • Making fun or otherwise berating something said by another person

My Judgment for Excellence

The intention is to encourage motivated and able participants to aspire for and achieve something extraordinary in this course. For instance, you could write a paper of very high quality with high probability of publication in a journal of repute. In such a case, the overall grade for the course will be decided by the grade of this excellent work alone, irrespective of the grades obtained in any/all other components. Needless to add, I would exercise very high standards of evaluation here, and also share such information with the rest of the class appropriately. Post grading in the course, the possibility of such work(s) being appropriately taken forward in collaboration with me would also exist as an option for you.

Disability Accommodation Statement

Any individual who qualifies for reasonable accommodations with respect to disabilities should please contact me immediately.

Session Details

Session DetailsI will be using both the lecture-discussion and the problem introduction-solution methods to teach this course. The following content will be covered:

Topic 1 



Role of Services in the economy. Experience economy and experience 

engineering. Service package. Career options in services. Introduction to project 


Examples: Apple Stores, Niketown.



  • (Fitzsimmons & Fitzsimmons, 2011) Ch 1, 2

  • (Pine & Gilmore, 1998) [included in course pack]


Topic 2

Service Strategy


Strategic service vision. Competitive strategies. Strategic analysis of the industry
environment (Porter’s 5+1 forces). Market position map. Winning customers in
the marketplace.
Case study: Legal industry
Examples: Southwest Airlines


  • (Fitzsimmons & Fitzsimmons, 2011) – Ch 3

  • (Grant, 2010) – Ch 3 [included in course pack] or (Haberberg & Rieple, 2008)

  • (Heskett & Sasser, The Service Profit Chain. How Leading Companies Link

Profit and Growth to Loyalty, Satisfaction, and Value, 1997)

  • (Economist-1, 2011) and (Economist-2, 2011) – for case study on legal

industry [included in course pack]


Topic 3

Service Strategy: Case Alamo Drafthouse


Strategic service vision. Industry analysis for entertainment industry US;
comparison with entertainment industry in India.
Case study: Alamo Drafthouse



  • (Fitzsimmons & Fitzsimmons, 2011), p 61-63 – for case study on Alamo

Drafthouse [included in course pack]

  • (Fitzsimmons & Fitzsimmons, 2011), p 61-63 – for an alternative case study

on United Commercial Bank and El Banco [included in course pack]



Topic 4

Role of Information in Services



Customer migration path. Data about the customer. Data privacy and limits in
use of customer information. Data architecture. Data models. Technology in
service encounters. Competitive role of information technology.
Case study: Hard Rock Café



  • Case study on Hard Rock Café [included in course pack]

  • (Fitzsimmons & Fitzsimmons, 2011) – Ch 5

  • (Messner, 2004) [included in course pack]



Topic 5

Components of CRM Applications


 Definition of CRM. CRM landscape and system overview. CRM readiness 

check. Contact center. Data warehousing.
Case study: Ritu Kumar

Examples: Hard Rock Café, Dresdner Bank, Deutsche Bank 24, McKinsey



  •  Case study on Ritu Kumar [included in course pack]

  •  (Gilson & Khandelwal, 2005) [included in course pack]

  • (Messner, 2005) [included in course pack]

  •  (Shainesh & Sheth, 2006) – Ch 5, 7, 9


Topic 6

Value from Services


 Value dichotomy. Sources of customer value. Contribution of marketing to 

value delivery. Service profit chain. Moments of truth in customer service.


  •  (Beaujean, Davidson, & Madge, 2006) [included in course pack] 

  • (Golub, et al., 2000) [included in course pack]

  • (Heskett, Jones, Loveman, Sasser, & Schlesinger, 2008) [included in course pack] 

  • (Sirdeshmukh, Singh, & Sabol, 2002) [included in course pack]

  •  (Lanning & Michael, 1988) [included in course pack]


Topic 7

Service Quality


Service recovery. Gaps in service quality. Measuring service quality 

(SERVQUAL). Designing for service quality. Walk-through audit.
Case Study: McDonald’s

  •  Case study on McDonald’s [included in course pack]

  •  (Fitzsimmons & Fitzsimmons, 2011) – Ch 6

  • (Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry, 1988) [included in course pack]

  •  (Perez, 2010) [included in course pack]

  • (Reichheld, 2003) [included in course pack]


Topic 8

Process Improvements


Mehod for business process (re-)engineering (BPR). Chain link logic. Quality tools for process analysis and problem solving.




Topic 9

Statistics for Customer Service


Building questionnaires. Frequency distributions. Summary statistics. 

Correlation analysis. Lab exercises.


Service questionnaire [included in the course pack]


Topic 10

 Using the Service Encounter for Marketing


Outbound marketing (campaign management). Inbound marketing. Dialogue 

Case: Logitech

  •  (Kalyanam & Zweben, 2005) [included in course pack]

  • (Messner, 2008) [included in course pack]


Topic 11

The Quest for Customer Focus


Concentrating on customer relationships. Loyalty cards. Opportunity based 

customer segmentation. Involving employees in customer service.
Case: Harrah’s Entertainment/Caesars



  • (Fournier, Dobscha, & Mick, 1998) [included in course pack]

  •  (Loveman, 2003) for the case study on Harrah’s [included in course pack]

  • (Smith, 2005) for the case study on Harrah’s [included in course pack]



Topic 12

Managing Service Operations


Managing capacity and demand. Yield management. Waiting lines. 

Example: Disney Park

  • (Fitzsimmons & Fitzsimmons, 2011) – Ch 11, 12



Topic 13

 Service Supply Relationships


The professional services firm. Service supply relationships. Outsourcing. 

Offshoring. Status of India’s ITES Industry. Charge-out rates and margins.
Industrialization of service delivery.


  • Fitzsimmons & Fitzsimmons, 2011) – Ch 13 

  • (Messner, 2011) [included in course pack]


This course requires you to work continually throughout its duration and it also entails a fair amount of background reading, writing, and discussion.

  • Main Text Book

Fitzsimmons, J. A., & Fitzsimmons, M. J. (2011). Service Management. Operations, Strategy, Information Technology. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Note: The main text book covers roughly 30% of the course content. Hence, reading and studying from the main text book alone is not sufficient. You do not necessarily have to purchase the text book (there are copies in the library); the course pack – together with the lecture slides and your class notes – should have sufficient material.

Course Pack and Readings

Beaujean, M., Davidson, J., & Madge, S. (2006, Feb). The 'Moment of Truth' in Customer Service. McKinsey Quarterly, pp. 63-73.

  • Economist-1. (2011, May 05). A Less Gilded Future. The Economist, pp. 69-70.
  • Economist-2. (2011, Aug 13). Bargain Briefs. The Economist, p. 56.
  • Fitzsimmons, J. A., & Fitzsimmons, M. J. (2011). Service Management. Operations, Strategy, Information Technology. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
  • Fournier, S., Dobscha, S., & Mick, D. D. (1998, Jan-Feb). Preventing the Premature Death of Relationship Marketing. Harvard Business Review, 42-51.
  • Gilson, K., & Khandelwal, D. (2005). Getting more from Call Centers. McKinsey on Operations, published by The McKinsey Quarterly 
  • Golub, H., Henry, J., Forbis, J. L., Mehta, N. T., Lanning, M. J., Michaels, E. G., et al. (2000, Jun). Delivering Value to Customers. McKinsey Quarterly.
  • Grant, R. M. (2010). Contemporary Strategy Analysis (7th ed.). Wiley.
  • Haberberg, A., & Rieple, A. (2008). Strategic Management. Theory and Application. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Heskett, J. L., & Sasser, W. E. (1997). The Service Profit Chain. How Leading Companies Link Profit and Growth to Loyalty, Satisfaction, and Value. New York: Free Press.
  • Heskett, J. L., Jones, T. O., Loveman, G. W., Sasser, W. E., & Schlesinger, L. A. (2008, Jul-Aug). Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work. Harvard Business Review.
  • Kalyanam, K., & Zweben, M. (2005, Nov). The Perfect Message at the Perfect Moment. Harvard Business Review, 112-120.
  • Lanning, M. J., & Michael, E. (1988). A Business is a Value Delivery System. McKinsey Quarterly. Loveman, G. (2003, May). Diamonds in the Data Mine. Harvard Business Review, 109-113.
  • Messner, W. (2004). The Beauty and Importance of Quality Customer Information. The Marketing Review(4), 279-290.
  • Messner, W. (2005). Customer Relationship Management Technology. Business Information Review, 22(4), 253-262.
  • Messner, W. (2008, Dec). Enhancing Marketing Performance through Inbound Customer Marketing. (A. G. Mulky, Ed.) IIMB Management Review, 430-432.
  • Messner, W. (2011). Offshoring to India - Realising Savings and Capturing Value. Journal of Indian Business Research, 3(1), 63-68.
  • Parasuraman, A., Zeithaml, V. A., & Berry, L. L. (1988). SERVQUAL: A Multi-item Scale for measuring Consumer Perceptions of Service Quality. Journal of Retailing, 64(1), 12-40.
  • Perez, J. (2010). Walk-through Audit. Sweetwater Brewing Company.
  • Pine, J., & Gilmore, J. (1998, Jul). Welcome to the Experience Economy. Harvard Business Review, 97-105.
  • Reichheld, F. (2003). The Number One You Need to Grow. Harvard Business Review.
  • Shainesh, G., & Sheth, J. N. (2006). Customer Relationship Management. A Strategic Perspective. New Delhi: Macmillan India.
  • Sirdeshmukh, D., Singh, J., & Sabol, B. (2002, Jan). Consumer Trust, Value, and Loyalty in Relational Exchanges. Journal of Marketing, 66, 15-37.
  • Smith, J. S. (2005, Apr 8). Customer Research. Why Harvard Lost out to Vegas. Financial Times, p. 10.